The structure of the holidays and remembrances of Great Lent is surprising in its thoughtfulness. Each of the Sundays is dedicated to one of the thematic memories. Each of them is a special celebration.
The Third Sunday of Lent is dedicated to the Cross of the Lord. It called the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross. On this day, as well as throughout the following week, a special prayer worship is performed before the Cross.
“Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, o Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify”, - this is the key chant of the holiday. It is so important that in the liturgy of the day it replaces the Trisagion.
The Cross of Christ is not mentioned in the Nicene Creed of 325. The text speaks of the Passion of the Lord, "who suffered and rose again on the third day, ascended into Heaven and is coming to judge the living and the dead."
Recall that the words about "the third day" in the language of Scripture and Tradition are a semantic synonym for death. For, according to biblical ideas, the third day in the tomb is the time when it was believed that a person was finally and irrevocably dead. “Lord, it already stinks, for four days he has been in the tomb,” Martha said to Jesus about her dead brother Lazarus (John 11:39).
In the Creed, which went down in history under the name of Niceno-Constantinople, with a reference to the Second Ecumenical Council of 381, the Cross is mentioned.
The symbol speaks of the crucifixion of the Lord under Pontius Pilate. It speaks of suffering and burial. But he doesn't mention his death.
Recall that it is this Creed that is considered the most important in world Christianity. It is the only one used in the worship of the Orthodox Church. The addition of the words about the procession of the Holy Spirit “and from the Son”, in Latin, filioque, in Western Christianity, at one time actually became one of the main theological justifications for the mutual separation of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Some researchers of the Creed in recent times believed that this happened because the text was edited in a hurry, and the subject of dogmatic confrontations of that time was different. The "Arian controversy" raged in the Church, after the name of the heretic Arius, who claimed that the Lord Jesus was not the Son, but the creation of God. The authenticity of the Lord's death on the Cross was then beyond doubt. That is why, in their opinion, it was not mentioned in the Creed.
However, this is most likely not the case. For, like the Nicene Creed, the 381 Confession of faith also speaks of the Resurrection on the third day. After all, the third day is a biblical synonym for death. At the same time, this is a designation of the moment in time when all human hope is dead and God Himself begins to act!
“And the Lord commanded that Jonah be swallowed up; and he was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, says the Book of the Prophet (Jonah 2:1). These words, speaking of his own death and Resurrection, were mentioned by the Lord Himself in the Gospel.
The Veneration of the Cross on the third Sunday of the Great Lent, marks the passage of half of this penitential time. In the language of Orthodox worship, such overcoming of the half, joyful or mournful time, liturgically denotes the midpoint of a certain time period.
The Sunday of the Cross means that half of the forty days of fasting have already passed. “The night has passed, and the day has drawn near,” Paul writes (Rom. 13:12). On the prayer horizon of the Church on the Sunday of the Cross, the light of the approach of Easter - this Feast of Feasts in the orthodox Tradition – the coming day of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, begins to manifest itself.
Thus, the Sunday of the Cross acquires an ideological, and theological significance. Lenten veneration of the Cross is performed by the Church as a special Liturgy in Honor of the Cross of the Lord. The Cross is our protection and help, it is our hope. The Cross is a sign of Christ's Victory over hell and death. The Cross is the threshold of the Resurrection.
According to the classical patristic definition, the Church is a Society of Believers. Like the Lord in the Gospel, the Church wanders through history. Being the Body of the Lord, she "has not where to lay her head" (cf. Matt. 8:20). During these Middle Lenten days, the Church is constantly meditating on the mystery of the Cross. Out of this meditation, prayer is born. ““Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, o Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify”, its words sound.
The cross is the personification of the Redemptive Cause of God, who became flesh. Through this "instrument of our salvation" - in it, through it and on it - the Holy, Strong and Immortal God in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit conquered death, destroyed hell and revived the world. “The Greatest King restored Adam from the tomb with His divine Power and the inexpressible radiance of His Divinity,” says the Eucharist of the Apostle Mark. by the Holy Spirit.
“The Son and the Holy Spirit are the Hands of God,” as Saint Irenaeus described (+200). Once and for all in history, the hands of God were visible on the Cross.
“If Christ has not risen, our faith has no meaning,” Paul writes (1 Corinthians 15:4). The Cross of Christ is inseparable from the Resurrection.
In the Gospel and Faith of the Church, the Cross and the Resurrection acquire a historical and, at the same time, a theological dimension. Therefore, in a mysterious, sacramental inspiration, the Church addresses the Cross as a Person, appeals to the Cross as to Christ Himself.
“I am the Resurrection and the Life,” says the Lord in the Gospel (John 11:5). Like the Resurrection, the Cross is one of the names of the Lord. When looking at the Cross of Christ, as the Apostles did when meeting with the Risen One, “our heart burns within us” (Luke 24:32). For where the Cross is, there is the Lord.